The port of Baltimore's continuing labor dispute, which boiled over in a three-day dockworkers strike in October before a three-month "cooling-off" period, now simmers with uncertainty.

Labor peace in the port seems precarious. A contract covering the handling of vehicles and other local matters has expired, and workers voted down a new contract. The union says it won't strike and management says it won't lock out the dockworkers.

The only certainty is that the port has lost work, and some of it might never return, port officials said.
Even though management and the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333 sat down for talks again last week, a solution appears as elusive as it did when the union went on strike in October after years of working under temporary extensions to a previous, expired local contract.

The strike and subsequent cargo diversions meant dockworkers logged about 30,000 fewer hours between October and January compared to the same period last year, said Michael Angelos, president of the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore, which represents port employers. That's the equivalent of a 40-hour week's work for 750 people.
Read more: Labor dispute a stubborn anchor on port business in Baltimore -